Argentinian newspaper La Nación contribution

Friday 9 February 2024

Professor Tobias Jung, Director of the Centre for the Study of Philanthropy & Public Good (CSPPG) at the University of St Andrews Business School, has provided expert commentary for an article on the future heirs of great fortunes around the world in the Argentinian newspaper La Nación.

Asked why philanthropists, such as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, decide not to pass on their fortunes to their children but donate them to charitable projects instead, Professor Jung stated:

Giving your wealth away rather than passing it on to your children is a longstanding idea amongst industrial philanthropists. It goes back to at least the beginning of the 20th century. For example, Andrew Carnegie, who, with John D Rockefeller, was one of the richest people in the world at the time, decided to do so. His reasons for this are outlined in his The Gospel of Wealth, where he says: ‘the parent who leaves his/her child enormous wealth generally deadens the talents and energies of the child, and tempts them to lead a less useful and less worthy life than they otherwise would’. So, in essence, Carnegie thinks it is a duty of care to your children that you should not burden them with enormous wealth so as to allow them to flourish on their own instead. This is an idea that we can find amongst contemporary wealthy philanthropists too, including Bill Gates. In an interview, Bill Gates has previously stated that ‘It is not a favour to [your] kids to have them have huge sums of wealth…It distorts anything they might do creating their own path.’ So, there is a common theme here. It is, however, important to be quite nuanced here. Although philanthropists such as Buffett have pledged to give 99% of their wealth away, it does not leave their families poor and destitute going forward…

Asked about the future influence of the Gates Foundation given a reduced involvement of Gates himself, Jung pointed out that:

The Gates Foundation, from very early on, was envisaged to be a ‘sunset foundation’. A ‘sunset foundation’ is a foundation that will spend all of its money and resources, and then cease to exist…It is currently considered that the Gates Foundation will have completed its spend down within the next 25 years, so somewhere around the year 2050. So, yes, its influence will decrease, and in some areas stop completely. More importantly, however, the influence it has had over the years, both positively and more problematically, and how its activities have shaped philanthropy and the areas it has operated in and contributed to – particularly education, healthcare, and agriculture – will be felt for quite some time. The Gates Foundation’s activities will definitely form an important part of the history of philanthropy and of the trajectory of the fields it has worked in at local, national, international, and global levels.

The full piece is published as Bill Gates, el megamillonario que donará más del 99% de su fortuna a su “cuarto hijo” – LA NACION, 8th February 2024, by Lucía Sol Miguel

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